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This Is No Ordinary Time for Remote Working

Millions of people are working remotely for the first time due to COVID-19. But to form strong opinions about telework based on what’s happening today would be a mistake, argues HOK Director of Interiors Tom Polucci.

We are living in unprecedented times as businesses and individuals explore new and unfamiliar measures to stay safe, remain productive and prepare for what’s next. In times like this, capital projects often are slowed or halted and money shifts to strategy. Our clients in Asia are already diverting money toward new priorities because of COVID-19. We are  starting to experience the same in Europe, the Middle East and across North America. Businesses are:

  • Rapidly implementing (or creating) distributed work programs.
  • Enhancing their AV/IT readiness for remote work and increasing the capacity and ability for distributed meetings and collaboration.
  • Accessing and implementing cleaning and sanitation protocols.

For companies with well-established remote work programs, this will test the capacity of their systems. For those that do not, this is trial by fire. Let’s be clear: We are in the midst of the largest live test of remote working in history. And the conditions for doing so are far from ideal.

We usually do not have to throw a program together within days or, for some, hours. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t attempt this during school closings with our stir-crazy children underfoot. Under normal circumstances we wouldn’t be taxing the system with everyone trying to access the network remotely at the same time. And we wouldn’t have the distraction of watching a worldwide crisis unfold with the constant barrage of updates and alerts.

We must keep these challenges in mind when the dust settles and we evaluate what worked and what didn’t during this rushed and grand experiment in remote work. Until then, let’s be patient and kind to ourselves, our colleagues and, particularly, our new office mates—our spouses, partners, children, parents, roommates and pets—knowing that, as the saying goes, this too shall pass.

About this series: HOK workplace design leaders are sharing their thoughts and client insights about the state of today’s work environment and how it will adapt to the new coronavirus realities.

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